Outdoor ice makers are commonly associated with commercial use, but they are suitable for residential use as well, since they can fit nicely in an outdoor kitchen setting. If you throw a lot of cocktail parties or have many friends coming over, the higher price may be worth it in the long run, especially given that nowadays you can always find deals and get discounts on most products.
It is possible to get a discounted outdoor ice maker if you browse closely through the offers, both on and offline. While there is a wide array of outdoor machines fetching around $ 2,500, there are retailers who offer significant discounts, and the same model can cost only about $ 1,000.
Many ice makers are designed to be used both as a freestanding unit and as a built-in machine, and some are truly portable. In commercial settings in particular, versatility is important, and an ice maker that can be placed both below and above the counter can help maximize the available space. Depending on the model you choose, some can be of a smaller size as compared to other ice makers; outdoor machines are typically narrower as well, at around 15 inches wide, so that they can be placed even in more confined outdoor commercial settings.
Depending on your budget, you can get a machine that has more features, such as an automatic overflow protection, that does not use CFC gases (also called Freon), known to damage the ozone layer, and has an air-cooled condenser for water conservation purposes. Some models will need to be defrosted manually, while more expensive ones have a cleaning cycle that is fully automatic, which makes them easy to maintain.
However, all ice makers should be heavy duty and sturdy, and it would be best if they are made entirely of stainless steel, considering that they are meant for extensive outdoor use. Having a back side that is fully enclosed is a very important feature, because rain should not be allowed near the electrical components of the machine. Nowadays, even less expensive models feature an integrated ground fault circuit interrupter that resets the ice maker automatically in case there is a power failure. Aside from being weatherproofed, such machines must be approved for outdoor and/ or commercial use as well.
Make sure the machine you buy has a motor powerful enough to be able to make ice in a fairly short period of time; more expensive machines are able to make up to 50 pounds of ice per day and can store up to 25 pounds in their storage bin, while more affordable models produce up to 10 pounds per day. The style of the ice produced depends largely on the type of machine; some make crescent-shaped ice, others cube-shaped.